Trump and Clinton both release some medical details amid scrutiny over their health
By Noah Bierman and Evan Halper
Sep 14, 2016 | 7:15 PM
|Reporting from Washington
One candidate posts pictures of himself eating fried chicken and a taco bowl and says he's 15 or 20 pounds overweight. The other hid a pneumonia diagnosis until it knocked her off the campaign trail.
It took a while, but health has suddenly vaulted to prominence in the race between the oldest pair of presidential nominees in history.
And both reacted as they typically do — Donald Trump with the misdirection, flair and controversy of a reality-television reveal, and Hillary Clinton with a document release Wednesday following days of growing demands. Neither has circulated the type of detailed and extensive medical records that voters have come to expect in a modern campaign.
A new letter from Clinton's doctor, Lisa Bardack, explained the pneumonia diagnosis that prompted the candidate to pause campaigning this week and otherwise offered mostly the same information about Clinton's health Bardack shared in a letter more than year ago. The new letter says the physician has evaluated Clinton several times since she nearly collapsed Sunday after becoming overheated, dehydrated and dizzy during a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York City.
Before the episode, a non-contrast chest CT scan revealed that Clinton, 68, had a small right middle-lobe pneumonia, according to Bardack. Bardack writes that it is a mild, noncontagious form of the bacterial infection. Clinton was prescribed the antibiotic Levaquin and directed to take it for 10 days. Bardack wrote that Clinton "continues to improve."
Clinton continues to take medication for an underactive thyroid, as well as the blood-thinning drug Coumadin, the doctor also reported. She also takes allergy medication and vitamin B12. The doctor shared various results from Clinton's physical exam suggesting she is otherwise in good health.
"The remainder of her complete physical exam was normal and she is in excellent mental condition," Bardack wrote. "She is recovering well with antibiotics and rest. She continues to remain healthy and fit to serve as president."
Trump, 70, has been eager to raise questions about Clinton's health, frequently questioning her strength and stamina on the campaign trail. But his disclosures have been even less specific.
In December, he provided a much-ridiculed letter, drafted in just five minutes by his physician, Dr. Harold N. Bornstein. He declared that Trump, if he wins, would be the "healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
After Clinton left the campaign trail to recuperate from pneumonia, Trump said he had taken a physical exam last week and planned to release the results this week.
But the plan for releasing the results was chaotic. Trump scheduled a taping of "The Dr. Oz Show" for Wednesday, suggesting he would discuss the results there. Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose promotion of products and unfounded advice has made him controversial in the medical community, also promoted the show with that in mind, saying in a Fox radio interview that he planned to ask Trump pointed questions, yet would only cover issues Trump wanted to discuss.
But just before Wednesday's taping, Trump's staff tried to downplay expectations, saying that he would instead discuss broader health topics and that Trump's exam results would be released later.
"On a TV show? I don't think he should," campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News just before the taping.
She noted that Oz "wasn't present at his physical."
If Conway thought it was a bad idea, Trump did not get the message. Reporters were not allowed into the show, which is scheduled for broadcast Thursday. But in a tease, producers released a clip showing Trump pulling two letters from his suit pocket as the audience claps.
"Should I do it?" Trump asks the audience. "I don't care. Should I do it? It's two letters. One is the report, and the other is from Lenox Hill Hospital" in New York.
"May I see them?" Oz asks, taking the documents to begin reading them.
The show said only that the two men discussed Trump's health. It was unclear how much detail, if any, they went into.
Oz "took Mr. Trump through a full review of" the candidate's family medical history, nervous system, respiratory health and other systems, according to a news release from Oz's show. But it did not offer specifics on what was intended to be discerned from the review or what the results were.
Trump said he wanted to lose 15-20 pounds, audience members told Politico. Another attendee told NBC News that the report showed that he takes a statin to reduce cholesterol and that his blood pressure is good.
The information typically gathered at a physical exam can provide a useful picture of a patient's health, said Dr. Nitin S. Damle, a primary care physician in Rhode Island and president of the American College of Physicians.
But Damle cautioned that such exams are hardly definitive. "We can't clear you," he said. "We can only say you don't have risks for this or that. … It drives me crazy when people say, 'I am totally healthy because I got a clean physical.'"
A new Morning Consult survey, taken in the two days after Clinton's abrupt departure from the Sept. 11 commemoration after she fell ill, showed 8 in 10 voters paying at least some attention to Clinton's wellness.
And about a third of voters think Trump's health is above average or excellent, compared with about 2 in 10 voters who hold that opinion of Clinton's health, the poll showed.
The issue is subject to sharp partisan difference: 7 in 10 Republicans said Clinton's health was below average or poor, compared with 16% of Democrats. Overall, 4 in 10 Americans hold this opinion, an increase from an August poll showing only a quarter of voters felt that way.
But a large majority, about two-thirds of all voters, said they wanted candidates to release more of their medical records.
It's hard to tell whether the back-and-forth will affect the election. A quarter of those surveyed said Clinton's health would make them less likely to vote for her, and it might reinforce some of Clinton's trust problems. Voters are more likely (50%) to believe that Clinton has misled the public about her health than to believe Trump has (37%), according to the survey.
Times staff writer Noam N. Levey contributed to this report.